I loved many aspects of life at Maynooth. It was full of country folks like myself, and it was easy to connect with people from all over the country. It was a place where you could be yourself but have the craic too. I had spent my secondary school years mostly in a small school in Wexford which tended not to send many students to university, so I didn’t really have an obvious friend circle, and therefore attending a friendly place was crucial for me.
I served as President of the French Society in 1998-1999. I received a prize for having the highest exam score in the 1999 class of French (Minor). I also played internal league soccer: we were whipping boys, but it was good craic.
Maynooth was unique as it is a genuine college town, so very few students were local. Almost everyone I knew was going through the same experience - living away from home, challenging themselves personally, making connections, and ultimately thriving.
The skills I gained were many. As a French undergraduate, I spent a mandatory time working on my language in France, in my case a summer working in a restaurant on the beautiful Mont Saint Michel in Normandy. Overall, this was a massive experience and set me up for future travel adventures. It showed how possible it is to take on something completely new. At the time, the French Department offered an excellent programme of IT skills, which was how I learned MS Office, and I went on to complete the Hip in Information Technology. From geography, it was my first experience of primary research, data analysis and giving presentations, which of course is nowadays what I teach for a living.
My recommendation is to choose something you enjoy above anything else. Many school-leavers choose degree options for the wrong reasons, then get stuck into unsatisfying careers. I suggest that young people choose a life that suits them. For sure, there’s a lot to be said to obtaining a well-paid career in Dublin, but that brings challenges of accommodation costs, house-sharing with strangers, boring commutes and risk of crime. For me, there are better lifestyle options.